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Family Life Vs Ship Life: Balancing Life & Work On Cruise Ships

ship life
By Gareth Smith

After working at sea on cruise ships for over 7 years now, I have learned the best ways to juggle my family and friends in my real life at home and my relationships in my ship life.

When I first started working on ships, it was all very new to me to travel across the world from the United Kingdom to Los Angeles to join a massive cruise ship.

I immediately became immersed in a work environment which is also your temporary home. It was quite an eye opener.

I went into the job with an open mind, and that certainly helped. The first few weeks were hard with a lot of training and also working the job at the same time. I quickly discovered in the ship life connections are made easily and within a few weeks. Over the course of my first six-month contract at sea, I had made friends for life.

As you can imagine there is a lot to do on a ship and being new to it all. I had loads of questions. I spent time off in the ports of call and visiting new places. One of the perks of working on ships is frequent access to visiting new places. That being said, working away from home for the first time was quite hard, being away from family and friends and having minimal contact was difficult.

Every week I would purchase a $10 phone card which would, at the time, give me about 30 minutes of call time back to the UK. I would use this time carefully talking to family at home, finding out news, and catching up on family life back in the UK.

It was hard because you want to have long conversations but you had to condense them to 30 minutes or less.

As the weeks went by on board the ship I gained more and more new friends. Many of the crew in the technical department are placed on 6-month contracts. There was a fair mix of nationalities on the team which at the time consisted of 15 technicians. Eight of them were from the UK, so this made it a lot easier to feel a connection to home.

I was far from family life yet the connections from the other crew made me feel welcome. I became part of the team and a member of the ship family.

Over the last 7 years, I have gained a wealth of knowledge and friendships that not only are based on board the ships but extend back home. I find myself going on holiday and meeting up with ship friends more when am home. The connection continues even when you have left the ship.

Communication is now easier with Skype. But ship life is involved and gradually you become wrapped up in the family you have on board. I’ve been at sea so long now, it is almost to the point of role reversal. When I end up going back home to my family life I find myself missing my friends and connections from the sea.

Surviving the ship life requires you to create a family around you on the ship, a group who will support you and act as your surrogate family while you are away from “home”. Those who have been there for me are now an extension of my actual family and they are friends that will last a lifetime.

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